A controversial, confusing and complicated topic... the "C" word. That's right, we are talking about Copyright.
Every time we start a new relationship with a client who is not familiar with the ins and outs of working with a professional designer, we find ourselves spending some time discussing the ins and outs of copyright. What we usually explain to potential clients is that buying exclusive copyright to a design work is very expensive and not always necessary. Let your designer keep the copyright and consider getting limited or even unlimited usage rights. Negotiating broad usage rights with your designer is often a more economical and effective strategy than a full rights purchase. It's a win-win for you and your designer!
Depending on the nature of your design project limited usage rights are usually all you would need or want.
For example, if you are commissioning your company's logo, then you would want to have unlimited rights to use and reproduce your logo for all media in all markets and geographical regions for an unlimited time.
However, if it is a promotional brochure or website project, then you probably don't need unlimited usage. Short-lived promotional materials only need limited usage rights, since they require updates only every few years and are usually reproduced in a single media. Limited usage rights vary from one-time to extensive use and are less expensive than unlimited rights.
Consider where and how the design work you are paying for will (or might) be used in the future and negotiate your contract terms accordingly. Here at Ruff Haus Design, Inc. we follow the standards and practices set by the professional organizations we belong to, such as the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) and Graphic Artists Guild (GAG). We must adhere to the guidelines they set in order to maintain our membership.
Most professional marketers and designers belong to some sort of regulatory organization. So when you are seeking a reputable company to work with, we suggest you ask around before you start a relationship with a creative organization. We like to develop long-term relationships with our clients, so we do our best to communicate openly and share our knowledge. Fewer growls, more tail wags!